Canopy Thrills

Today was another hot day in Texas, with the temperatures soaring high above 80 degrees fahrenheit. When I awoke this morning, the skies were absolutely clear and the wind was calm. A complete opposite forecast from my weather research of yesterday. I was thrilled at the prospect of jumping the demo canopy Lescek had lent me — Aerodyne’s Pilot 124. I’ve spent the last 500 + skydives jumping a 7 cell canopy. Trust me when I say that my Spectre 135 has treated me well, especially having jumped many of those with a camera mounted on my head, but I now believe it’s time for me to downsize and re-explore the limits and capabilities of a 9 cell canopy. I need confidence re-instilled in my ability to jump in higher winds. My accident 5 years ago took away my bold conviction and nerve.

So, on the first load, I decided to pull high at 5,500 feet, giving me an opportunity to play and test the Pilot canopy. I should have figured out that 43 knot uppers at opening altitude would hinder any prospects of leisurely sashays, turns and canopy testing. From the moment my canopy deployed (gorgeous on-heading openings by the way!), I was facing in to the wind and speeding backwards at an alarming rate (or maybe part of the visual was the swift moving feathery cloud layer beneath me). Dang it, I truly dislike that feeling of wishing I was on the ground when I’m in the air. It doesn’t happen very often, but when I am praying to be affixed firmly to terra firma whilst under canopy, it’s not a very comfortable sensation. For 5,000 feet I sailed backwards like a wind dummy, despite my front-riser input. However, lucky for me, the spot had been calculated for the tandems on board the plane, and I was happy to gracefully kiss the ground in the desired landing area. Woohoo! Next time, I’m paying more attention to the uppers before exiting the plane!

(Skydiving terminology 101: Uppers – The upper winds, or winds at exit altitude. The “uppers” are often much stronger and occasionally from a different direction than ground winds.)

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